While I keep most of my strictly political writing over here, I write a great deal which touches on politics at NBC and on Twitter. I do not, as the saying goes, "stick to sports." This has been controversial at times.
Sports fans prefer you steer away from politics, at least when the politics deviates from their own. Media companies, like the one that pays my salary, are often wary of it too. NBC is great about it -- they give me a lot of leeway in this regard -- but they'll also crush me like a bug if I ever really step into it and say or do something that reflects poorly on the company. They'll be right to crush me too. I represent them in a very public way. It's a fine line to walk, of course, but I've been walking it for close to a decade now. I may offer some sharp commentary from time to time, but I don't throw bombs or make messes.
Today over at The Ringer, Bryan Curtis writes about how, in Trump's America, sportswriters are increasingly doing what I do and refuse to "stick to sports." Indeed, he declares the end of "The Stick to Sports Era."
I'm not sure about that, but I do very much like his into to the topic, in which he describes the people who have always waded into politics, even before this brave new era:
These days, when a Republican politician does something obnoxious or destructive, we expect them to be met by an advance guard of sportswriters like Craig Calcaterra, Dave Zirin, David Roth, and somebody from Deadspin. You know, the enforcer types.
I've been called a lot of things in my life, but never an "enforcer type."
In other news, if you have yet to look at the page I have dedicated to my adorable kitty cats, it can be found here.
From gag orders which seek to hide science and reason from the populace to executive orders which ignore the input and expertise of the government agencies, to the cruel and capricious decision to predicate political asylum decisions on someone's religion as opposed to their persecution, Donald Trump and his bigoted and immoral advisors have wreaked havoc in their first week in power. With a dozen or so strokes of his pen, Trump has repudiated 241 years of American ideals and values and has abdicated America's position as the world's beacon of liberty, tolerance and opportunity.
Over the next four years it is incumbent upon all Americans and their representatives to fight Trump and his cowardly, selfish, callow and nihilistic world view. That fight will have to take the form of hard and substantive work. Small acts, thankless tasks and incremental progress will be required. It will take years to restore all that has been destroyed, even if it has only taken a week to destroy it.
In light of that, it might be understandable to dismiss the efficacy of symbolic gestures. And to be clear, symbolic gestures are no substitute for substantive action. But symbolism is important too, and to suggest that we must choose between substance and symbolism is to suggest a false choice. A symbolic gesture can inspire and galvanize a substantive opposition to tyranny.
To that end, I propose the following symbolic gesture: Members of Congress who oppose the destructive agenda of Donald Trump -- be they Democrats or Republicans -- should walk out of Trump's first State of the Union Address, tentatively scheduled for late February. Show up, take your seats and then, as soon as Trump begins speaking, stand up and walk out.
Doing so will show the world that, even if our president has no regard for historical norms and American ideals, the rest of us are not idly standing by and accepting it. It will show Trump that he does not, contrary to his belief, have a monopoly on the spotlight. It will also, without question, rattle Trump. He's a narcissist, possibly in a clinical sense, and the temper tantrum he will throw in response to such an act will simultaneously reveal the depths of his insecurity and impotence, while likewise derailing his momentum and, in turn, impeding his destructive agenda.
Some may say that such an act is immature or disrespectful. Nonsense. Walking out of the State of the Union is not unprecedented (see here and here). And a principled stand will not, by damn sight, be the most disrespectful thing which has occurred at a State of the Union Address in recent years. Beyond that, Trump has already done much to damage notions of normalcy and decency in office, so he is not entitled to the deference afforded previous presidents which he does not appear to value and certainly has not earned.
Angry tweets are not going stop this destructive man's agenda. Press releases are routinely ignored. Congress' voting record, thus far, has suggested that official opposition to Trump exercised through normal channels is weak and ineffective. Opponents of Trump have, thus far, showed that they lack the spine to do anything of value.
But this is something that can change that. Congressmen: walk out of the State of the Union Address. Show Trump that he if he is not going to run this country in accordance with its historical ideals, he is not going to receive the same level of deference his predecessors received.
Take a stand now. If not, when in the hell will you?
This evening the president said that, going forward, the United States would prioritize Christians over Muslims when granting asylum to refugees.
Predicating asylum on one's religion, rather than the peril they face, is antithetical to the concept of asylum.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Announcing that Christians would be given preference over those of a religion that is loathed and feared by many in this country on this, of all days is, for obvious reasons, the sickest and most disgusting of ironies.
This is abhorrent. Trump and the puppeteers who pull his strings are monsters.
Steve Bannon, chief strategist to the president and, until last year, Editor in Chief for Breitbart News, lashed out at the media today:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call.
There will be a lot of outrage on the part of the media over this. A lot of self-righteous monologues about the media being "The Fourth Estate" and all of that high-minded stuff that people who got into journalism in the wake of Watergate like to bleat on about, but the proper response to this is not outrage. It's laughter. Mockery.
Yes, the media has more than its share of problems. It missed the 2016 election badly. Even worse: there will now be a lot of Boomer journalists self-righteously speechifying as a result of all of this. But the idea that reporters are going to shut up because Steve Bannon tells them to is silly. Indeed, his words are more likely to inspire some complacent members of the press corps to go harder after Trump than they might've otherwise done.
But Bannon probably knows this. He doesn't necessarily want it to happen, but he had no choice because Donald Trump is drowning and its Bannon's job to throw him a life preserver.
Trump is not weak, mind you. He's issuing ill-considered and damaging executive orders and promising changes, cuts and initiatives which will do real tangible harm. But he is nonetheless drowning. Drowning in the waters he most prefers to swim and which he usually finds most refreshing. The public spotlight. In front of the cameras and the crowd. For the past 40 years they have been where he has felt most at home and shined the brightest. Now, however, he is not a mere celebrity. He's the president, the press and the public are obligated to criticize and scrutinize the president, the attacks are just beginning, he does not know how to fend them off and he's already beginning to get paranoid and defensive.
So he's sending out his propagandist-in-chief to rally the base.
Which is totally what this is, by the way. It's overlooked because of all of the talk about economic anxiety and anti-immigrant sentiment and people's distaste for Hillary Clinton, etc., etc. but a singular defining trait of the Trump campaign was its ability to cultivate distrust in the media on the part of its rump base, which is around 30-35% of the electorate.
It did so by utilizing -- and, I should add, being utilized by -- media outlets like Bannon's Breitbart, The Drudge Report and Infowars. By pushing or riding on a message that the United States is under siege, that it has some very specific enemies which can very easily be neutralized and that, above all else, our problems are not of our own making or incumbent upon us to solve via hard work and sacrifice. Things would only be better if we could do these simple things to take us back in time to when everything was good -- to Make America Great Again -- and here is how we can do it. With a wall. Or a ban on muslims. Or big tariffs.
The Breitbarts pushed this narrative and, going further, told their readers and listeners that any media outlet which did not push this narrative was lying to them. That they were complicit in the work of our enemies. It was many steps beyond the standard Republican thing about how the media has a liberal bias. It was about how the media is an active evildoer, intent on America's downfall.
I know a few Trump supporters personally. People who, if you're not talking to them about politics, you would never consider unreasonable people. Indeed, they're highly intelligent people who, in the normal course, would not be raving about Mexicans and Muslims and admiring Vladimir Putin. They're not even necessarily strongly opinionated about conservative causes that Paul Ryan and his gang plan to use Trump to effect.
No, a huge reason they latched onto Trump was because they bought into the idea that all but a couple of self-selected media outlets were the enemy and the only truth which can be found is within the pages and on the video and audio feeds of Breitbart, Drudge and Infowars. They overstated the peril our nation is in, understated the work needed to address the peril which existed and supported someone who gave them the easiest, most painless answers to do so. They were people whose concerns about the future are real but who were totally rooked by charlatans into believing that they had the answers.
This is who Bannon is counting on to mobilize once again. He knows that that rump base isn't as big as those who oppose him and his boss. They're sizable enough, however. Sizable enough to where, if they are mobilized, he can claim that they represent a silent majority and then begin the work of marginalizing the true majority who never wanted Trump to be the president in the first place and who now stand appalled at his first week in office. Even some of that media he told to shut up will likely buy into that story, because among the media's other faults is its love of phony balance.
Trump is in deeper waters than he's ever been in his life. He's drowning, and his life guard is trying to save him. He wants everyone out of the water as he does it.
Screw him. Keep swimming.
The president just announced a major governmental investigation into an election fraud conspiracy theory which has been comprehensively debunked regarding an election which he won.
Maniacs will be maniacs, but the people to watch will be the non-maniac Republicans who will gladly go along with this because it will give them political cover to enact greater voter suppression measures than they already have, disenfranchising even more citizens than they already have.
Trump is a straw boss. A front man for unprincipled people who care for nothing other than their own selfish ends and the preservation of their own power.
Yesterday, the Trump Administration placed a gag order on the EPA, prohibiting it and its employees from talking to the press, tweeting, releasing any statements, facts or studies. The reason, without question, is so that its new leaders appointed by Trump can introduce their package of anti-environmental nonsense into the agency -- alternative facts, if you will -- in order to better accomplish their not-so-secret mission of gutting environmental enforcement and regulation in this country.
This afternoon the person who runs the Twitter account for Badlands National Park tweeted about the environment -- carbon in the atmosphere and acidity in the oceans in the industrialized age. The tweets were not arguments or partisan. They did not include conclusions or prescriptions about policy. They were simple recitations of objective scientific fact.
There is a very good chance that this person will be fired as a result. When they are, it will likely be attributed to some administrative violation or the notion that any subject apart from the national park itself is outside of their mission. But we know what it will really be about. It will be for committing the sin of stating a fact in public that reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of the beliefs of our new government.
The writing of these tweets, which I predict will be deleted by some middle manager following orders, will constitute a career-forfeiting act of dissent and their author will, in turn, become a hero for writing them.
We live in a mad age.
UPDATE: The rogue tweets have now been deleted. They still live on in this screencap:
The New York Times published a story about how fathers in a New Jersey suburb actually had to take care of their children on Saturday as their wives went to Washington for the Women's March:
If this had been a weekday, the absence of women would most visibly have affected the commuter trains, workplaces and schools. On a Saturday, however, there were other matters to navigate: children’s birthday parties, dance performances, swimming lessons, and lacrosse and indoor soccer practices. Growling stomachs required filling on a regular basis.
In other news, the author of this story is Filip Bondy, who used to be a sports writer for the New York Daily News. He once wrote a column angrily criticizing Yankees manager Joe Girardi for not using Jorge Posada to catch the ninth inning in the game where Mariano Rivera broke the record for career saves.
Posada had already been used in the sixth inning of that game to pinch hit and was unavailable, but that didn't stop Bondy. He's THAT dedicated to the journalism that matters.
A rally, by definition, is a means of doing something. A rally is a muster for a common purpose. One rallies in furtherance of a greater goal. A rally is not an end in and of itself -- when it comes to a rally, what matters is the practical impact on policy and direction of the country which occurs in its wake.
As such, the size of a rally is not of critical importance. Small gatherings have led to history-altering movements. Large throngs of people have come together and then dispersed with little if anything to show for their efforts. Time and subsequent events are the judge of a rally's effectiveness. In light of that, however inspiring and cathartic yesterday's Women's Rally was -- and it truly was -- it was mere prologue. A statement of purpose and intent. The coming days, weeks, months and years will determine whether the Women's Rally was a harbinger of great and needed change or, alternatively, merely a moment in time.
The same can be said of the inaugural crowds. I and others have noted how sparsely-attended Friday's festivities were -- and they were -- but it's not truly significant. I suspect, and poll numbers imply, that it is suggestive of a lack of widespread support and enthusiasm for the president and that, at some point, that lack of widespread support and enthusiasm will be a problem for him, but it's also the case that he never had widespread support during the election. He won that election, however, and he could easily accomplish many of his goals absent widespread support. Again: small gatherings have led to history-altering movements. Both good and bad.
That said, the president seems pretty fixated on the size of his Inaugural crowd, with he and his surrogates lying about how big it was in a comically obvious and aggressive manner. Though they didn't comment about the size of the Women's Rally, I suspect that we'll see some reality-denying pushback about its size by Trump supporters in the coming days, if it hasn't happened already. Both claims, relating to the Inaugural and the Women's Rally, easily disprovable by objective evidence available to anyone with the ability to see that which is directly in front of their face.
As I said, though: the politics of crowd size, however, interesting, are not super important one way or the other. What is important here is the lie.
If Donald Trump and his spokesmen are willing to blatantly and shamelessly lie about the most simple, observable and verifiable facts, what are they willing to do with information to which only they are privy?
I went to the Ohio portion of the Women's March last weekend. I could not go to the Women's March on Washington this weekend, but I did watch a friend of my daughter's so that her mother could go.
As my daughter's friend was dropped off yesterday we told her mother to be careful and to give 'em Hell. Based on the look of things today, women in cities all over the country are givin' 'em plenty of Hell. Do not mess with women. Ever.
Back home things were quieter. I took my daughter, her friend and my son out for lunch. When we got back home, the three of them took off together. We live in a small, walkable little village so they can go anywhere they'd like. I did housework and didn't think about it. It's a nice day.
An hour or two later I got a series of texts from my daughter. All photos. Seems they went to the school, even though it was Saturday. And they brought along some sidewalk chalk:
Assuming the rain that's forecast for tomorrow happens it'll all be gone before school is back in session. If the storms skirt by us, however, I wonder if I'll get a call from the principal. Part of me really hopes I do.
Someone punched Richard Spencer as he gave an interview after the Inauguration yesterday. Spencer is a white nationalist leader who has called for "ethnic cleansing" of non-whites and those without European background. He has advocated the forced sterilization of black people because he believes them to be evolutionarily inferior. He is in favor of the establishment of America as a "White Ethnostate."
He is, in practice -- and in the symbolism and ideology he espouses -- a Nazi.
I favor non-violent means of protest and would never advocate a campaign of violent action unless it was absolutely necessary to protect the lives and safety of others or unless or until all other means of protest and resistance to tyranny have been exhausted. Moreover, if the man who punched Spencer here is identified, I am in favor of his prosecution for battery. Laws are laws.
But just because I do not advocate violence does not mean that seeing a Nazi get punched in the face is in any way unenjoyable to me. The classics never go out of style:
If you smiled when you first saw this photo, do yourself a favor today: turn off the TV. Stay off of social media. Read a book or something inspiring. Take a walk. Cook a meal. Think about the good things in your life and in our world and vow to do whatever it takes to protect them. And to create more good things.
The Hill reports on the Trump budget, which plans to cut trillions in federal spending over the next decade, eliminating entire cabinet-level departments and massively scaling-back government's role in society.
If enacted, it will be an utter disaster.
Budget-cutting has become a conservative religion, divorced from any rational assessment of the actual role government plays in society and driven only by the insatiable hunger for more tax cuts for the wealthy. If this sort of approach is enacted it will create a deep recession -- government doesn't burn the dollars it spends, huge amounts of it fuel the economy -- and will push us backward in innumerable ways.
You may have been conditioned by Fox News pundits to think that government is your enemy in some vague way, but if you ask anyone in any specialized field, be it science, research, computing, engineering, arts, education, law enforcement, public health -- you name it -- the role of the government is large, on balance beneficial, even if sometimes annoying, and in many cases essential.
Even if the Heritage Foundation thinks differently.
We went to the Ohio Women's March today. Down Broad Street to the Statehouse.
Things suck now. They don't have to forever.
Civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis said today that he does not plan to attend Donald Trump's inauguration and that he does not see Trump as a legitimate president. Trump retorted on Twitter, attacking Lewis and saying that his district was "crime infested" and "falling apart."
Lewis represents a large portion of Atlanta, including areas encompassing Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and the headquarters of Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines. While it has the same sorts of challenges any city faces, Lewis' district is far from "crime infested" and is in no way "falling apart." Indeed, its median household income is just below the national average and its average household income is above the national average. Not that everything is perfect in that district: Trump's attempt to develop a condo tower there was an abject failure. Oops.
Trump likely knows nothing about Lewis' district. He says this, however, because Lewis is a black man and Trump assumes that an area represented by a black man is a ghetto. And he knows that his supporters likely believe the same thing.
I just read a story in the New York Times about how Donald Trump is a “master media manipulator” who has created a dilemma for the press when it comes to covering him. This is unadulterated bullshit.
Trump is no more a “master media manipulator” than a party guest who takes a dump in the punch bowl is a “master party host manipulator.” The host is shocked. The host does not know what to say or to do for the time being because all expectations of how a party guest behaves have been profanely thwarted, but he has not been “manipulated.”
An excellent essay from Deadspin's Hamilton Nolan about why Trump should not be given deference in any way, shape or form. The short version:
Our society and our institutions are simply not set up to deal with someone who is fully prepared to flout all of our norms of good behavior. Our system, to a large degree, relies on social sanction rather than laws to prevent powerful people from getting too far out of line. When our most powerful person is willing to ignore all of that, there is not much in place to stop him. The normalization process is well underway. The pomp and circumstance and deference will only increase after the inauguration. The press and the Congress are the only two institutions standing between a dangerous man and total power. They must both realize this is not the time to salute and grovel. This is not the time to fall into familiar patterns of default respect for someone who does not himself respect the responsibility to the public that he has been given. This is the time for them to rise to the occasion. And the occasion is a fight for civil society.
I’m an Ohio State graduate who, for close to 20 years, watched and obsessed over Ohio State football. I dropped Ohio State — and college football entirely — cold turkey in the fall of 2011, however, and I’ve never looked back.
There are a lot of reasons for that, some of them personal and some professional, but the biggest one was seeing how truly exploited college players are. It’s especially easy to see when you live in Columbus, worked with the university at times, and see how big a business college football truly is at its highest levels.
In the wake of the Meryl Streep thing, Republicans are saying that this is why the left is out of touch with typical, working Americans.
The last four Republican presidents, by the way, have been (1) a billionaire reality show host; (2-3) scions of one of America’s wealthiest, most patrician east coast Ivy League dynasties; and (4) a literal Hollywood actor. So maybe spare me.
Anyway, I just read the Streep speech. To be offended by it you have to be either pro-mocking the weak and powerless or just tribally pro-Trump. There’s no partisan politics in it. There’s nothing about economics or policy separate and apart from “be kind to the weak and powerless.”
If that’s what passes for controversial, we’re basically screwed as a society.
Wikileaks was founded in 2006 with a self-proclaimed mission to oppose what its founder, Julian Assange, considered to be “secrecy-based, authoritarian” governments and entities. To combat their censorship of information in the public’s interest and to expose their lies and corruption. If Wikileaks made bumper stickers to promote themselves, they might’ve printed them up with something like “Wikileaks: liberating information and fighting the powerful.”
In the past few years, however, Wikileaks has itself become powerful and its mission and acts have come under increased scrutiny and criticism. Criticism ranging from its careless outing of dissidents to its alleged connection to Russian state-sponsored hackers and the publishing of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign during the U.S. presidential election.
And now, in keeping with the behavior of the powerful entities upon which it has declared war, Wikileaks has decided to protect itself by going after those who would seek to expose its own secrets.
While I’m a sportswriter now, I am a lawyer who spent ten years in private practice and one year working for the Ohio Attorney General’s office. In that time, a chunk of my practice was devoted to defending allegedly crooked politicians before the Ohio Ethics Commission, the Ohio Elections Commission and the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission. When I was with the state I represented the Ohio General Assembly, providing it with advice with respect to the legality of its actions.
It’s been a few years since I’ve done that and I was never a particularly important member of the Ohio ethics bar, but I had my moments, some of them ridiculous, and learned some things about that weird world. Among the biggest takeaways: the procedure of an ethics investigation is of the utmost importance. Indeed, it is often more important to the outcome of an ethics investigation than are the actual facts of the underlying ethical allegations.